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Off-lot filming drops in Sept.

Film prod'n dips; TV shoots up over last yr.

Off-lot feature production activity in Hollywood slumped in September, but TV shoots reached impressive levels during the month, according to figures released Friday.

Permitted feature production totaled 413 days, down 128 from the previous month, according to figures compiled by the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. It was the lowest feature total since April, when activity plunged to 406 days during the war in Iraq, and less than half the total of 930 days in September 2002 — highest total of last year.

Features lensing locally include “Aviator,” “Cellular,” “Constantine,” “Criminal,” “Collateral,” “Taxi” and “Terminal,” while “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “National Treasures” are expected to start lensing soon.

“We are expecting a pickup over the next few months and into the early part of the year,” said EIDC veep Kathleen Milnes. “We are definitely seeing a decrease in independent films being shot here because they are going to other countries to take advantage of incentives and lower costs.”

For the first nine months of this year, feature production has totaled 5,168 days, or 751 days less than the same period of 2002. Those figures, however, are barely half the 8,164 days logged during the first nine months of 2001, when studios scrambled for the first half of the year to stockpile product amid fears that actors and writers would strike.

September TV production hit the third highest level of the year with 1,381 days, 292 days behind August and 100 days ahead of the September 2002 level. “There is a high demand for all kinds of programming — broadcast, pay and cable,” Milnes said.

Report also showed that September commercials returned to the doldrums of spring and early summer with 364 days, the third-lowest level of 2003. Commercials activity hit a peak of 810 days in January 2001 in the aftermath of a six-month strike against the ad industry by SAG and AFTRA, and Los Angeles production has exceeded 600 days in a month only three times since then.

The unions reached a tentative deal on a new commercials contract on Sept. 24 and the SAG-AFTRA joint board approved the deal last week, triggering a ratification vote by members.

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